Authors: Brandy Jellum
“Mr. Caraway!” Voices blend together as they shout for Eli. “Tell us, who is your lovely date tonight? Do we know who she is?”
Eli takes my hand and places it into the fold of his arm near his elbow. I tighten my grip to try and keep my nerves in check. My lips are dry, and my heart is pounding. “She is a dear friend of mine, and that’s all you need to know.”
My feet are moving quicker now as he pulls me to safety inside
of the restaurant. I think I am home free when I hear something that makes me stop dead in my path. “Any news of our missing socialite Elizabeth Lewis?”
My heart stops. It’s been six years, and they still haven’t given up.
Exhibit A of why I have made it a habit not to attend public places
with him. I almost want to laugh and then throw up. The people, all of
them, the ones taking the photographs and the one asking questions,
they make me sick. It’s in their job description to know how to find
someone, even if they don’t want to be found. They are obviously not
and should seriously think about finding new ones,
since I’ve been right here in Long Port, right underneath their noses.
I smile at the thought momentarily. “No,” I hear Eli say and glance
to see the somber look on his face, “there has been no news. I don’t
think there ever will be.”
With that, I am whisked inside by Eli, the doors closing quickly
behind us. We are immediately rushed through, past the maître d
standing just behind the tall wooden stand. We don’t have to wait for
a table and are seated along the dance floor where a big brass band is playing. We aren’t in the middle of the dining floor, but we might as
well be. People glance at us from the dance floor as they pass. I see
everyone’s heads turn, focusing on our table, as they try to gauge who
I am exactly and what I am doing sitting there with Eli.
Eli has never made it a point to appear anywhere in public with
a female, except to local charity events, which I refuse to go as his date.
This is exactly why. I’ve always worried that someone will see through
my façade, through my fake black hair and the simplicity of my make-up.
Seriously, what was I thinking?
“Are you alright?”
I nod my head slightly. I don’t know how to respond so I just stay silent.
“I really can’t believe they were here tonight,” he says.
I’m about to open my mouth and say something when my eye
catches a flurry of red hair whip by.
I take a deep breath and
search for the brilliant strands of bright red hair. It can’t be, but it
is… my old best friend. I watch Millie throw her head back and laugh
as the guy with his arms wrapped around her guides her across the dance floor. I hear Eli calling my name, but my focus is on the couple dancing to the band’s rendition of
Zoot Suit Riot
. That’s when I see
the face of the man she is dancing with. My heart clenches as my eyes
make contact with the man who broke my heart— Jacob.
“Shit,” I hear Eli say, and I glance over and find that he is staring at the same spot. “I’m sorry, Liza. I really had no idea he was going to be here.”
ELI STARES AT ME
in disbelief. I mean, I can hardly believe myself.
A part of me believes Jacob recognized me, which just makes me want
to go on the dance floor to prove that he means nothing to me anymore.
That I have recovered from the broken heart he left me with, even if I really haven’t. I take a deep calming breath and fix my gaze on Eli.
“I asked you to dance.”
up and hold my
. “Don’t make
me ask again
“If you’re sure…” he replies hesitantly before standing up and
taking my hands into his.
“I’m positive.” And then I drag him to the dance floor.
The exhilaration I get from swinging around the dance floor leaves
me breathless. I’ve always loved to dance, whether it’s in a club or
swing dancing. Something about it makes me feel liberated, even if
dancing with Eli is nothing like dancing with Reid. I find myself easing up, as does Eli, the tension from earlier melting away. The music never
stops, so we never quit dancing, forgetting the plans to have dinner and
go catch a movie. The song swiftly changes to another, and it’s a dance
I know all too well. It’s one that requires the changing of dance partners
throughout the song. I stop in the middle of the dance floor and glance
at Eli, who
to have barely
a sweat. “Let’s go
dance.” Before I can
on the dance floor, everyone starts dancing with their partners, leaving
me no choice but to take hold of Eli and dance. I clutch tightly to him
and scan the floor, searching for any sign of Jacob, but I can’t find him.
The music indicates that it’s time for a change in partners. I brace myself,
prepared for whatever is to come, and release a sigh a relief when I see
the plump, short, and balding man come in my direction.
I bite back the laughter that threatens to escape my mouth every
time the man tries to cop a feel from behind. I graciously grab his hand
and place it back where it belongs. I’m relieved and stressed at the same
time when it comes time to change dance partners again. The relief I
feel when Mr. Grab Ass moved on to his next victim is short lived when
I come face to face with my next partner. Jacob.
He smiles and nods his head. His smile is vindictive, all too knowing,
and tells me everything I need to know. He knows who I really am.
keep it together, Liza. It’s only two minutes.
I tell myself as I place my hands
Our eyes lock as we start to dance. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think
we’ve met before. I’m Jacob… Jacob Kestner.” His voice is just the way
I remember, smooth, rich, and deep. One that spent years saying he loved me, just one of his many lies.
I clear my throat and attempt to make my voice sound slightly different. “Liza,” I say, but don’t include my last name.
“Is that short for something?” He looks me in the eye and stares as he watches how I react. “Perhaps something like Elizabeth?” He twirls me around in a circle and pulls me close to him, so close that I
can smell the same cologne he’s always worn. I can hardly breathe, and
my body is shaking. For a moment, I miss his touch and immediately
throw the thought out of my head. “You know, my wife…” I wince at
his mention of having a wife. “My wife, Millie—”That backstabbing
wench is his wife? How could she? After knowing what he did to me? “
She told me about this story, how a couple weeks ago—”
We are interrupted by another man appearing and ready to take his place. Jacob dismisses him and keeps a tight hold on my hand and waist. “As I was saying, a couple weeks ago we were at a club, Gravity. And well, she swears up and down that she saw someone who looked just like a friend she used to have. I told her she had to be mistaken. That her friend was all but gone. Poof, disappeared, and without a single trace as to where she went. I told her she was crazy, that it wasn’t possible. Only now… I know she was right.” He leans closer, his lips close to my ear, and my breath is ragged. “You might have fooled her that night, and everyone else here tonight, but you are not fooling me, Elizabeth.”
I pull away, trying to break free from his hold, but he doesn’t let go.
He squeezes his hand, digging his nails into my hip, and I let out a
soft cry. “Let. Me. Go,” I say sharply, low enough so only he can hear it.
“No,” Jacob says firmly. He pulls me closer again, too close, and my heart pounds in my chest. “You broke my heart disappearing on me like that.”
“You deserved it. And you deserve much worse,” I hiss. He laughs
softly again. “You should be dead, right next to my mother.”
A low, deep growl resonates in his throat. “Feisty… I see you haven’t
lost your touch. But really, is that
? Do you
“You slept with her.” Tears sting the corners of my eyes. “You slept
with her for four years. You pretended to love me, you even asked me
to marry you, and meanwhile you were screwing her behind my back.”
“It’s a shame you had to find out that way. I’m sorry, Elizabeth. I
really am. But I was just a boy when she seduced me. What was I
supposed to do?”
“Not continue it for four damn years.” I am getting angry now. He’s
y what he did with her, what he did to me, and what he did
to us. He is putting all the blame onto her and accepting no responsibility.
Just like the Jacob I once knew. “Did you know she was pregnant? And
that it was your child?” Jacob tenses now and scans the room to make
sure no one is close enough to hear. “That’s how my father found out.
He found the pregnancy tests, all five of them. My parents hadn’t been
together in months, so he knew… he knew she was having an affair. He just didn’t know that it was you.”
The truth hits him like a ton of bricks. His cool man façade quickly
disappears, his eyes reflect a glimpse of sadness. I am gasping for air,
fuming and angry at him. I haven’t thought about that tiny detail in the
last few years. The one that I was going to have a baby brother or sister.
And because of him and my father, they were both taken away from me.
Just like that. I’ve never told anyone about the baby, or about how he was
sleeping with my mother. Not even Eli. I was too ashamed
to admit that I hadn’t been good enough for him. That he had to go to
my own mother
, just to be pleased. Whether she ‘
him or not.
I break free of Jacob’s hold, and this time he doesn’t fight me. He
stands there with a tear slipping down his face, and as pale as a ghost.
I can feel everyone staring at me and turn away as the tears start to
fall down my face. I quickly shove my way off the dance floor and out
one of the side doors. My eyes are so clouded with tears that I don’t see
the crate until after I trip and fall over it. I scrape my elbow against the
cement ground and hold my hand over it, whimpering in pain. A pair
of big, strong hands gently grab a hold of me. I glance up and see Reid.
When did he get here?
“Here,” he says gently, “let me help you up.”
“Thanks, but I can manage myself.” I move to stand up when a
sharp pain shoots through my foot, and I collapse back down. Reid
bends down, offering to help me, and I push his hands away.
“Damn it, Liza. Stop being so stubborn.” I ignore him, pull my knees
up to my chest, and wait for the pain to ease. Reid finally gives up trying
to help me and sits down on the ground next to me, crossing his legs.
I brush my hair over my shoulder and glare at him. “What do you
want?” I ask coldly.
“I want to make sure you are okay. What happened in there? Was it that guy? Elliot or whatever his name is?” He stares at me hard and
waits for my response.
I start to laugh. “His name is Elias, and it wasn’t him. In fact, it
isn’t anyone you need to concern yourself with.” I take a deep breath. “Why do you even care? Why don’t you go back inside the restaurant?
I’m sure there are a ton of girls you’d rather be spending your time
with than me.” Reid laughs this time and shakes his head. “What is it
that you find so humorous?”
“Are you jealous, Ms. Winter?”
“Jealous of what?” Of course I am. I’m jealous of every woman he
may give the slightest bit of attention to. With all the strength I can
muster, I push off the ground and wince slightly when the shot of pain
courses through my foot again. “Can you just go now?”
I start to wobble away on my foot. I can’t let him see the tears that
are starting to roll down my face again. I only manage a few feet when
he calls out to me. “Wait!”
“What the hell do you want, Reid? Like I said, there are a ton of women in there who would love the chance to talk to you… or sleep with you, if that’s what you are searching for.”
“I don’t want any of them.” He furrows his eyebrows. “I only
“I hate to be a disappointment, since I’m sure you always get what
you want, but that will never happen.”
This time, I ignore the pain and walk away for good. I fight against
every nerve in my body that wants to stop and turn around. I fight
every instinct that tells me to turn around and run back to him, or
wobble in my case, and let him take me right there. I barely know the
man, yet I want to do things with him that I have only ever dreamed about. I continue the direction I am going and never look back.